The last time the Nashville Predators faced the Chicago Blackhawks, the good guys won 7-5. But that was in the waning days of a disappointing 2013-2014 season. And the top two stars in that game for the Predators, Patric Hornqvist and Mike Fisher (who combined for 5 pts that night), won't be lacing up tonight obviously.
Now, early in this season after a nice start, the Predators are... um, leading the Central Division? Wait, hold on... leading the Western Conference, too? As in 1st place? Are we really in 1st? Hot damn. And with only 78 games to go!
The Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks are 2-0-1 on this young season, with wins over the Dallas Stars and Buffalo Sabres and the OT loss coming from the Calgary Flames. Remarkably similar to the Preds start, really. Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, and Andrew Sharp lead the team with 2 goals each, and Corey Crawford has been consistent in net with a .920 save pct, right around his career average of .914. I would imagine Hawks fans are none too pleased about only being 15th in the league with 3.0 Goals/Game (incidentally, they are tied with the Preds), but... like I said, the season is young.
The Blackhawks are, regrettably, still the favorite in our division. Hell, they are still the favorites to win the Cup. The Predators haven't done as poorly in the United Center as you might think, going 19-23-3-1 all time vs. the Blackhawks in the Windy City.
Also, if you thought the Preds walked away frustrated with their shootout loss to the Calgary Flames on Tuesday, the Blackhawks lost to the same Flames team last night 3-2 in OT... after outshooting the Flames 50-18 and having 7 PP chances. I mean, look at this 5v5 Corsi chart from their game Thursday night, courtesy of War-On-Ice.com:
The Nashville Predators
The Preds made us soon forget that drab Tuesday night shootout loss to the Flames with a nice old school Predsy win over the Jets last night. We got outshot, relied on superb goaltending, and eked out a couple goals on some nice individual plays (and one lucky bounce).
Carter Hutton will likely make his first start in goal this season after Pekka Rinne earned his 33rd career shutout last night, stopping 31 shots from the Jets. As Jeremy pointed out in his season preview on Hutton, with a fully healthy Rinne, Hutton won't be relied on as much and we should see improvements in his numbers for this year. Playing against the Blackhawks will be no easy task for Hutton, his only previous appearance to the Hawks coming in a 3-1 loss last December.
Here is to hoping we see continued production from the top line, as Neal and Forsberg connected on a goal for the first time last night. Coach Laviolette seems keen on mixing it up... perhaps those two will give him reason to stick with that line the way it is right now.
The one Predator I would like to see get going is Calle Jarnkrok. He's pointless through the first 4 games of the season, will a paltry 4 shots on goal. Maybe Ironhook gets on the board tonight?
Reasons to Watch
Well, it's the Blackhawks. So, yeah there's that. And there are an alarming number of supposed Blackhawks fans that contribute to OTF now, so, I mean, what's up with that? Give these guys hell when we win, please.
Reasons to Watch and Listen
Listen to the pingage here.
Speaking of watching and listening, the game will be televised on FS-TN with the radio broadcast on 102.5 The Game. Puck drops at 7:30 pm!